Ulcer truth was hard to stomach

New Scientist:

BACK in 1984, a young Australian doctor called Barry Marshall swallowed a nasty-tasting bacteria solution. This was no accident. He did it to convince his peers that his suspicions about a highly prevalent disease were not as far-fetched as they thought.

I’m 99% sure I was cured of this same bacteria. I don’t say 100% because I don’t remember the exact name the doctor gave to my condition. But Helicobacter pylori sounds close enough.

Here’s what happened: About 4 or 5 years back, I went to the hospital with signs of internal bleeding. My stomach had been hurting for a day. I thought it was because I gorged myself on Mexican food during a day trip into Tijuana. I was with some Harambee staff and interns. Lying down on the way back eased my pain. But later in the evening, after we returned, I felt bad enough to go to the emergency room. I was admitted after I blacked out in the intake room (I woke with IV tubes in both arms). This all happened at Pasadena’s Huntington Hospital. I don’t know what gave the doctor the idea to test me for this stomach bacteria. But he did, and he said it was present. He said that most people have this bacteria but that it only affects some. I stayed in the hospital for two days; then, I was discharged with a prescription for medicine that would kill the bacteria.

Wouldn’t you know it, the medicine healed me. And when I say healed, I mean that I was cured of a unique stomach pain I had since high school. I used to get these mean stomach aches, ulcerous ones. And indeed, they were ulcers – the doc said X-rays revealed the presence of scar tissue in my stomach, indicating ulcers. But since taking that medicine, I have had zero – I mean ZERO – stomach aches and pains. It’s over. It was just that stupid bacteria. So a word to the wise – if you have persistent stomach pain, get your doc to check for this bacteria.